Saturday, April 4, 2009

Product Placement -- in short stories??

I still vaguely remember the first time I heard about the nefarious, evil and disturbing practice of product placement. Was this 20 years ago? The prospect was being discussed that not only might we have ads at 10-minute breaks during TV shows, but the TV show producers would receive payment (or at least free products) if they positioned these products actually on their show. Wow. Like - someone drinks a coke, and that's an ad! But it still didn't seem possible. That stuff only happened in exaggerated scare-ya stories, like the book 1984. Then the idea loomed that it could even happen on movies, which were suppose to be ad-free, since we paid admission to see them. How dare they! And how manipulative!l

What a yawn those concerns seem today.

And how successful is that product-placement meme. There are always new boundaries to break. A tavern in Boston (and Harpoon Brewery?) is sponsoring a short-story contest for anyone who can incorporate the proper name Harpoon into their story (and the words pint, pen and Bukowksi, who was the most flagrantly alcoholic of the past centuries of alcoholic writers).

I do like the short-story contest idea, but not in order to sell products. There could be contests around things we care about -- recovery from alcoholism, for example. But could such stories increase any one's profit margin?

H said he couldn't submit to the contest. He wants to smash capitalism, not take his cut.

me: We must live in the world we want to change?

I suggested one could insert Harpoon as a character's name. Harpoon Bukowski, an acoholic's nickname, ha ha. Pint doesn't have to refer to a pint of beer. It's simply a unit of measurement -- you've eaten a pint of ice cream, right? Harpoon Bukowski could make a reference to his pint-sized daughter trying to write, barely bigger than her pen.

H: No, it's still product placement

It's interesting that all one's needs is $1,000 bucks (approx) and a website and one can sponsor a short-story contest. I've given away plenty more than a thou in charity of various forms. I've gotta tell my do-gooder parents about this idea...


Miss Conduct said...

This has been going on for a while. Fay Weldon wrote some short story with product placement a four or five years ago that got a lot of publicity; I think it was a jewelry brand or store that she mentioned.

I'm amused by the notion that anyone thinks that contemplating Bukowski would increase a person's liquor consumption. It's more likely to make you go on the wagon.

HumanProject said...

Hi Miss Conduct,
Yes, a little googling reveals several stories about growing product placement in fiction:
Five years ago, Bulgari, the Italian jewelry company, paid Fay Weldon an undisclosed amount to feature the brand prominently in her novel, entitled — what else? — "The Bulgari Connection."

In that instance, Bulgari actually commissioned Ms. Weldon, a well-known British author, to write the novel.


But with "Cathy's Book," the authors had already written it when Mr. Weisman's agents at Creative Artists Agency showed the manuscript to Maurice Coffey, a marketing manager at Procter & Gamble....a young adult novel that will be published in September, the spunky eponymous heroine talks about wearing a "killer coat of Clinique #11 'Black Violet' lipstick." But in the final edition of the book, that reference has been changed to "a killer coat of Lipslicks in 'Daring.'

Re: contemplating Bukowski will make you on the wagon.

I'm like you, but one hears that glorifying, celebrating the alcoholic life makes it attractive to some people.